Homeland "Q&A" Review: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

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Homeland S02E05: "Q&A;"

Every man has his tipping point. For some, it's the safety of their families. For others, it's sharply shaved bamboo poked jammed under their fingernails after which their hands are dipped into Cholula hot sauce and habanero peppers are squeezed into their eyeballs all while watching the lost episodes of ABC's Work It. For me, it's sharks and broccoli. I'm not a good swimmer, I hate being bitten by large fish, and broccoli is GROSS END OF STORY.

For Congressman and part-time Al Qaeda sympathizer Nicholas Brody, it's a captivity session of pain, followed by the relief of that pain, some love and kindness, and some reprogramming by way of convincing, soothing words. "Q&A;," bound to make the list of essential Homeland episodes by the time this is all said and done, burrowed deep into what makes Homeland's characters tick and tock and cry and murder people in the woods, and it addressed the concerns of "Where do we go now?" from last week's bold episode that spun around our idea of what this show was about. And because this second round of Homeland prefers that its episodes include at least one moment of pure insanity, it had that too.

"Q&A;" was like a Freaky Friday version of last season's excellent "The Weekend." If you'll recall, "The Weekend" was full of fun sexytimes in a rustic cabin and romantic walks in the beautiful woodlands outside of Washington D.C. followed by accusations of plotting domestic terrorism, some guns pointed at vital organs, and Brody ditching Carrie in the middle of nowhere (how did she get back anyway?). It was a budding romance with a new flame that became heartbreak by the end. "Q&A;" was the bookend of "The Weekend," and equated to getting cornered at a party by a psycho ex-girlfriend who used Jedi mind tricks to somehow get back together.

And "Q&A;" was largely defined by one outstanding scene. THAT SCENE was Homeland at its best, and there was nary a suicide bomber, a bar dust-up with neo-Nazis, or a car-wash shower in sight. It was just Carrie Matheson/Claire Danes and Nicholas Brody/Damian Lewis sitting at a table in a drab room while a few cameras rolled. AND IT WAS AMAZING. Two Emmy winners acting their faces off, no big deal. I'm pretty close to calling this the best scene of the series, if not one of the best of recent television. Though it was just the main characters dialoguing it was unbelievably complex and layered as every avenue of the series was explored and prodded while a man's will and spirit were smothered under Carrie's foot heart. I loved this scene to death.

And what I loved most about this scene is that it was an extremely condensed version of what Brody went through before with Abu Nazir, only this time it was for "good" and America and so that you can have another Fourth of July BBQ next year. Brody was detained against his will, restrained against his will, pained against his will (Peter, way to be EXTREME to the MAXXX with the hand stabbing, buddy), and re-trained against his will. It was an attempt to undo everything Abu Nazir did to Brody over Brody's eight years as a P.O.W. by using the same brainwashing-hyphen-torture technique that Nazir used to turn Brody in the first place.

That obviously leads to questions about the morality of torture and illegal detention and whether "we" are just as bad as "them" even though the disparity between the severities of the two situations was vast, and I'll leave that for you all to discuss, but what that scene really did was tell me a lot about Brody. He's not quite the headstrong renegade we assumed him to be. He's fallible and malleable to whoever holds him last, a swing-voter-focused political ad's wet dream.

Carrie made him switch sides by softening him with love and care and catching him off guard with empathy and common sense as though she was saving him from a cult's indoctrination. But unlike Nazir, Carrie's persuasion was legit. It's a blast to see Carrie's go full-on bipolar between her heart and her job, and at times during her therapy session with Brody those goals intersected, and that's totally fine by Carrie! Going "undercover" and meeting Brody at his hotel? It's another chance to drink whiskey with him! Cuffing him and bringing him into the CIA for interrogation? An opportunity for some alone time with her crush! Changing his allegiance and bringing him into the CIA fold? Now she can call him anytime and meet for happy hours or coyly flirt at the copy machine! Yes, Carrie is the psycho ex with legitimate reasons–saving the world, making the future better for our children–to be clingy.

Of course that's vastly underserving what's really going on here, which is a fantastic intertwining of two people who just can't escape each other. And Homeland has found a way to keep them together that works, but for how long? Last week I wondered aloud about the possible scenarios Homeland would be able to wiggle out of capturing Brody so early, each being damaging to the viability of the series. One of those circumstances was the CIA turning Brody to their side, and I said, "But that kills the chase between Brody and Carrie, and there isn't a single person rooting for that." And that one person especially shouldn't be Lewis, because Brody is coming very close to being expendable. The heart of the show is Carrie and Brody and their relationship as lovers (or whatever they are) AND adversaries. Working side by side, the romantic flames may flourish but the juicy conflict is all but extinguished (unless you're here for yet another television extra-marital affair). And Brody can't go back to working for Nazir again while under the impression that he's CIA without really pissing us off, so we should all pray that he doesn't change his mind again. We can take a flip and a flop, but not a flip and a flop and ANOTHER flip.

So the question is, can Homeland be setting up the end of Brody's story? Is this show crazy enough to write off one its leads? An Emmy winner? Conventional wisdom says, "Hellllllllll nah!" But as we've come to find out, Homeland is anything but conventional.

The rest of the episode? What, there was more to the episode than Carrie talking to Brody for what seemed like an amazing hour? Yes, but it all pales in comparison. As for the moment of pure insanity I mentioned above, it was Finn at the wheel this time. This show has had some serious car troubles this season, hasn't it? I have no explanation for Finn running over that pedestrian (for more than a few seconds I thought it was Roya which would have been a new level of convenience, but I couldn't verify the bloody whimpering mess) while trying to speed away from his secret service detail, other than DRAMA! I could easily see Finn's hit-and-run playing out over a few episodes with the kids worried about whether the victim died or not, learning she died in the following episode, and then Dana (and maybe Brody?) having some real Grade-A dirt on Finn to use as leverage that could then be transferred up to Vice President Dad.

What a truly great episode of Homeland featuring a scene and performances that are beyond praise. Even if the show goes off the rails and Dana ends up chased into a tree by a mountain lion, we'll always have the incredible chat between Carrie and Brody and can point to that and say, "That... that scene was really, really, really good." Standing ovation, scream "woo woo," and throw your panties on stage. Absolutely amazing. We probably won't see any scene better than the best of "Q&A;" for this year and maybe more.


NOTES

– Okay, the Issa stuff is confusing me. Carrie forgot about those details but now she didn't? Or the team knew? Or they put the puzzle together as a team?

– I know I said, "There was a rest of the episode?" above, but THE SCENE would not be nearly as effective without the tense setup with Brody and Peter Quinn. Outstanding work by Rupert Friend.

– However, Quinn impaling Brody's hand to the table via knife was crazy! If that's what really happens in these CIA shakedowns, then I better take off my "9/11 was an inside job" bumper sticker because I want no part of that. "Every good cop needs a bad cop," he shrugged.

– The editing and directing during the great scene as also top-notch and deserves special mention. The pregnant pauses ready to burst, the one-shots zooming into Carrie and Brody as the talk progressed, the long holds on reactions, I really don't think it could have been done any better.

– I liked that "OH REALLY?" look that Brody gave Carrie when she said she would protect his family. The same family she just said she wanted him to leave for her. Hell, Carrie would probably hand deliver the known whereabouts of Jessica if it meant that obstacle could be knocked out of the way.

– Brody gets to go home to hugs n' things, Carrie gets to go home to a couch with no one to share it with. It's that longing for someone else, and the belief that she found that person in Brody, that's going to make her screw something up.

– Terrible job in Washington, D.C.? Keeping track of Senators and such. Sorry, Gary!

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